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Battle v. Cantera Psychiatry

United States District Court, W.D. Texas, San Antonio Division

November 6, 2019

KENNETH BATTLE, Plaintiff,
v.
CANTERA PSYCHIATRY, PRETRIAL SERVICES, BEXAR COUNTY; DISTRICT ATTORNEY, BEXAR COUNTY; AND SAN ANTONIO POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendants.

          ORDER

          ELIZABETH S. ("BETSY") CHESTNEY JUDGE

         Before the Court in the above-styled cause of action are Plaintiff's pro se Application to Proceed in District Court without Prepaying Fees or Costs and proposed civil complaint [#1] and Plaintiff's pro se Motion for Appointment of Counsel [#2]. This case was automatically referred to the undersigned upon filing, and the undersigned has authority to enter this order pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A). By his motions, Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis (“IFP”) based on his inability to afford court fees and costs and requests the appointment of an attorney to represent him in this case. Having considered the motions and documentation provided by Plaintiff, the Court will grant the motion to proceed IFP, deny the motion to appoint counsel, and order Plaintiff to file a more definite statement regarding his allegations in this case.

         I. Motion to Proceed IFP

         All parties instituting any civil action, suit, or proceeding in a district court of the United States, except an application for a writ of habeas corpus, must pay a filing fee of $350, as well as an administrative fee.[1] See 28 U.S.C. § 1914(a). Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP includes his income and asset information, which indicates that Plaintiff is unemployed, receives $1063 in monthly disability payments, and has no assets or savings. This information demonstrates that Plaintiff does not have sufficient monthly resources available to pay the filing fee, and the Court will grant the motion to proceed IFP.

         II. Appointment of Counsel

         Courts may appoint counsel pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) in IFP proceedings. Under § 1915(e)(1), the Court has discretion to appoint an attorney to represent a litigant in federal court, but there is no right to the automatic appointment of counsel in a civil case. Akasike v. Fitzpatrick, 26 F.3d 510, 512 (5th Cir. 1994); Cupit v. Jones, 835 F.2d 82, 86 (5th Cir. 1987). Appointment of counsel in a civil case is considered a privilege, not a constitutional right, and should be allowed only in exceptional circumstances. Lopez v. Reyes, 692 F.2d 15, 17 (5th Cir. 1982) (citation omitted); see Cupit, 835 F.2d at 86. In evaluating whether the appointment of counsel is proper under § 1915(e), the district court considers the type and complexity of the case, the litigant's ability to investigate and present the case, and the level of skill required to present the evidence. See Castro Romero v. Becken, 256 F.3d 349, 354 (5th Cir. 2001).

         Plaintiff has not demonstrated that exceptional circumstances are present in his case or that, based on the record, appointment of counsel is appropriate under the applicable legal standard under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). The Court will deny Plaintiff's request for counsel at this time, particularly in light of the fact that the Court is ordering Plaintiff to file a more definite statement to determine whether the Court will even serve his proposed Complaint on Defendants. Plaintiff may renew his request for counsel at a later date if this case proceeds beyond service.

         III. More Definite Statement

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), the Court is empowered to screen any civil complaint filed by a party proceeding IFP to determine whether the claims presented are (1) frivolous or malicious; (2) fail to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (3) seek monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.[2] See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Plaintiff's Complaint [#1-1] names Cantera Psychiatry, Bexar County Pretrial Services, the Bexar County District Attorney, and the San Antonio Police Department as Defendants in this action. Plaintiff's Complaint is on the Court's form Complaint for Violation of Civil Rights, which provides various questions and directives to Plaintiff to assist him in presenting the factual basis of his case to the Court. Although Plaintiff used the appropriate form, he failed to complete several sections of the form that provide the Court with information necessary to evaluate his claims. Aside from listing the Defendants, the only additional information Plaintiff provides is that the events giving rise to his lawsuit occurred on April 17, 2019; an individual named Angela McGowan was also somehow involved; and his cane was taken away from him while his feet were shackled for two days, causing him blurred vision. (Proposed Compl. [#1-1] at 5.)

         If the Court were to review only this Complaint, it would have no understanding of the factual basis of this case. However, Plaintiff attaches a number of documents to his proposed Complaint and his Motion for Appointment of Counsel, including additional information written by Plaintiff, state-court documents, and letters from attorneys Plaintiff contacted in seeking representation. (Exs. [#1-2]; Ltr. [#2] at 4-5.) Considering this set of documents altogether, the Court is able to discern the general basis of this lawsuit, but there are still not sufficient factual allegations before the Court to discern whether this case presents a plausible cause of action warranting service on Defendants.

         Construing all of Plaintiff's submissions liberally, it appears he is alleging that he was falsely arrested and searched without probable cause on April 17, 2019 for criminal trespass at the office of Defendant Cantera Psychiatry (“Cantera”). Plaintiff claims that he is the full-time caregiver and power of attorney for Ms. McGowan, who had an appointment with her psychiatrist at Cantera that day. Plaintiff also makes allegations regarding the process he was given after the arrest. He claims that he was required to spend two days in jail without his diabetes medication or cane as a result of the arrest; Cantera's videotapes of the arrest and search improperly “disappeared”; the District Attorney prosecuted him using a false police report; and he was not given a jury trial. Plaintiff lists the following causes of action in one of his attached documents: race discrimination; disability discrimination; age discrimination; sex discrimination; violations of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments; false arrest; false imprisonment; defamation; slander; emotional distress; and violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Ex. [#1-2] at 1.) To assist the Court in understanding whether any of these claims are plausible based on the facts at issue, the Court will order Plaintiff to file a More Definite Statement answering the questions listed in the order below.

         IV. Conclusion

         In summary, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion to proceed IFP, deny his motion to appoint counsel, and order Plaintiff to file a more definite statement.

         IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff's pro se Application to Proceed in District Court without ...


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